Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  • Time: 113 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: John Schlesinger
  • Cast: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvia Miles


Texas greenhorn Joe Buck arrives in New York for the first time. Preening himself as a real ‘hustler’, he finds that he is the one getting ‘hustled’ until he teams up with a down-and-out but resilient outcast named Ratso Rizzo. The initial ‘country cousin meets city cousin’ relationship deepens. In their efforts to bilk a hostile world rebuffing them at every turn, this unlikely pair progress from partners in shady business to comrades. Each has found his first real friend.

One comment

  • Was there ever a film of two such extremes? John Schlesinger’s film tells the story of Joe Buck (John Voight in an impressive debut), a good looking country hick who comes to the big city to make a living (so he thinks) as a gigolo. His experiences are all bad and he ends up living in utter squalor with “Ratso” Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) a tubercular petty criminal who had initially conned him, but who turns out to be the only person who actually gives him anything (a place to live, and food), meagre though it is. Then, just as Joe makes his first successful assignation (and through that, an inroad into the life he hoped to lead) Ratso’s poor health turns worse, and Joe has to choose whether to abandon him or not.

    This is not a cheerful film. The characters are mostly unpleasant (although, to be fair), both Joe and Ratso, initially portrayed as seedy, petty and generally fairly worthless, are shown to have qualities which redeem them somewhat. But the events portrayed are relentlessly squalid and depressing. Fair enough, this is a part of the world we live in, no less so now than it was in 1969.

    Against this, however, we have Joe Buck’s character arc – this is a character who learns something about himself, and who finishes the film a very much better person than he was at the start. And we have Ratso – one of life’s casualties, one who will take advantage of someone who appears to be higher up the food chain than himself, but someone who will extend such generosity as is available to him when he sees that the same person is actually less equipped than he is to deal with city life.

    All the performances here are excellent, but Voight and Hoffman are both superb. You won’t finish watching with a smile on your face (although you may have a tear in your eye), but you will be aware that you have been watching two great performances.

    And John Barry’s music is quite special, too, with the Florida Fantasy sequence standing out for all sorts of reasons.

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